Monday, November 3, 2008

Fight the power?

There is a new archival website which came along a couple of weeks ago from NZ on Air: NZ On Screen and it is an amazing website. NZ On Screen is a free archive that has been established with everything from the first episode of Gloss (truly cringeworthy) to some good quality documentaries. One that I took in over Labour weekend was Patu!, a documentary taken from the protesters point of view in the 1981 Springbok tour.

Having been born in 1982, obviously I knew how much of a schism the tour struck through New Zealand. I had seen the stock footage of protesters and of Alan Hewson, with his 1980's slug of a mustache slotting the penalty to give the All Blacks victory. But Patu! gave me quite an insight into the groundswell that was actually against the tour.

Seeing McAllister park, literally just around the corner from my house, covered in barbed wire was a wake up call. Indeed, the most disturbing aspect was the anger that was projected towards the protesters. New Zealanders literally setting upon other New Zealanders over a canceled game of rugby seems to frightening to be true.

In fact in one part a member of the public asks one of the protesters "How would you feel if your daughter brought one (an African) home?" For such a level of racism to be shouted in public today just seems downright foreign, however, this was only 27 years ago. It does reassure me that we have, thankfully, moved a long way since then.

Watching Patu! I was almost struck with a sense that we really do not have a defining political or social movement to stand behind. We had the Iraq war, but there seemed a complete sense of futility surrounding it. I remember going down to parliament and watching the protest just before the invasion. All it involved was some anarchists getting arrested, nothing that stirred my emotions. And yet in Patu! you see people literally risking their lives to stand up against what was a condoning of a racist institution (the South African government), and I could imagine myself getting in there and doing it (despite and maybe because I am a massive fan of rugby).

Talking to people who were around during the Springbok tour, however, it seems as though it was a watershed moment, the only other event which came close was the 1951 Waterfront Strike when New Zealand came the closest it has ever come to a dictatorship. Through other times we have been lucky enough to live in a relatively peaceful and democratically free country.

While I believe that a good amount of people now are either extremely apathetic, or very cynical to stand up for a cause, perhaps since we enjoy a peaceful and democratic existance, we are not forced to take to the streets to stand up for such things. Perhaps we should be greatful for that.

But ultimately it doesn't mean we should forget our history. So I'm off to watch the film 1951 on the 1951 Waterfront strike, when New Zealand supposedly came the closest it has ever come to a dictatorship. Time to find out more.....

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